Welcome to the Art&Seek Spotlight. Every Thursday, here and on KERA FM, we’ll explore the cultural creativity happening in North Texas. As it grows, this site, artandseek.org/spotlight, will eventually paint a collective portrait of our artistic community. Check out all the artists and artworks we’ve chronicled.
Painter Armando Sebastian always wanted to have a quinceañera, the traditional coming-of-age celebration for Latinas on their 15th birthday. So, he painted one for himself in the portrait “Mexican Pink.”
Sebastian’s work often explores gender fluidity because growing up in Mexico, he questioned his own gender.
“Sometimes I do intend [to] do it in a way that people could question the gender and say, ‘Is that a boy or a girl?’” Sebastian said. “I didn’t ever identify myself as one of each.”
Sebastian was one of seven Dallas artists featured in a traveling art exhibition showcasing the voices of the Hispanic LGBTQ community. What started as a single pop-up show this summer in Oak Cliff is now travelling across Texas, hitting Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley area.
The title of the show is provocative: MaricónX. In Spanish, “maricón” is a deeply offensive term meaning gay.
Curator Lex Treviño hopes to use art to reclaim the term for the Latinx LGBTQ community. (Latinx is the non-gendered form of Latino.) Treviño looks to the evolution of the word queer as a model.
“Let’s take the power away from the word,” Treviño said. “It’s kind of like what has happened with the word ‘queer.’ Where ‘queer’ used to be a slang term, it’s now used as a gender identity.”
Sebastian, who grew up hearing the term as an insult, was initially unsure about the title. But, he said, after participating in the show at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas last month, many of the artists embraced the word.
“Now, we feel like we belong because we’re taking [the word] back,” Sebastian said.
‘Seeing themselves in spaces’
While over 40 percent of Dallas is Hispanic, art from the Hispanic community — especially from queer artists — can be harder to find.
“LGBTQ representation in Dallas, especially for minorities, is not very predominant,” said Kell Hynson, another artist featured in the local show.
“Dallas is very separated, so you have to find your people,” Hynson said.
Throughout July, Dallas residents of all ages visited the exhibition, including a group of 6- and 7-year-olds from a children’s summer camp in Grand Prairie. Amber Welch, teacher of the camp group, said that spaces like this expose kids to new ideas.
“So that they know there is more out there than what they see on TV and what they hear from their parents,” Welch said.
The artists agreed with Welch, hoping that the art will change people’s minds.
Painter Marco Saucedo immigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico, when he was just 4 years old. His paintings depict his experiences growing up gay and undocumented in Texas.
“Maybe there is a young kid that’s going through some things,” he said. “They think they are gay and they don’t know how to cope with that. Seeing themselves in spaces like that is very important.”
And if kids see themselves in this art, maybe they will realize they are part of an entire community of people that are just like them — proud to be whom they are.
Gallery: More work from MaricónX
For Marco Saucedo, his artwork brings to mind the lives of undocumented children at the U.S.-Mexico border today.
“They’re putting a face to all those kids that are being caged right now because if it was me then, I would have been caged also,” he said.
Explore his work below.
Rachel Carp is an intern at KERA.